The post Oilers’ Blue Line Changes Hint Team Testing Touchy Deadline Trade appeared first on NHL Trade Talk.

The fact that the Edmonton Oilers have switched defensive pairings over the past few games suggests one of two things. Either the team wants to know if certain players can handle bigger roles and if there is more chemistry among blue-line partners. Or, the organization is talking about moving a defenseman in a deadline trade and the concern would be disrupting the roster by taking a regular out of the lineup. Specifically, the wonder might be what happens if Cody Ceci or Brett Kulak isn’t with the Oilers and Vincent Desharnais is asked to take on more responsibility.

So far, while Ceci’s demotion to the third pair hasn’t been seen as unfair or hugely problematic, the Oilers have lost two of three games. That’s not a great sign. The Oilers tried to mix up all of their defense pairings as they took on the Anaheim Ducks and coming off a loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. That loss snapped the Oilers 16-game winning streak. It felt like the right time to experiment.

Cody Ceci Brett Kulak Oilers

But, by the second period of that first game, head coach Kris Knoblauch switched back to keeping Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm together. The Oilers stormed back and won that game. Meanwhile, the team kept the pairing of Darnell Nurse and Desharnais together, needing to give it more time to see if that duo would click.

But, a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, where the Oilers looked flat leaves questions about their blue line makeup.

Oilers Need to Know How Much They Can Change the Blue Line Before the Deadline

If the Oilers plan to make a big deadline move, one or two assets will likely depart the organization. First is the 2024 first-round pick. Second is some salary cap, likely in the form of a defenseman.

The real assistance comes from moving Ceci and his $3.25 million salary. It would also send out his contract for next season. Kulak is less expensive ($2.75 million) but he’s locked in for two more seasons after this one. It would help the Oilers to move one of these players, but only if they aren’t hurting their chances of winning by depleting their already thin, but effective blue line.

If Desharnais can’t play big minutes, then calling up someone like Philip Broberg, or trading for a less-costly defenseman in a smaller deadline trade doesn’t help the team. They need to know the big man can take on big minutes. The Oilers also need to know that slotting Desharnais and Nurse together doesn’t send a negative ripple down the roster.

Next: Serious Markstrom Trade Talks Stalled Between Flames and Devils

The post Oilers’ Blue Line Changes Hint Team Testing Touchy Deadline Trade appeared first on NHL Trade Talk.

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